Reviewed: Sony Alpha NEX-5A


12 Mar 2011

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The Sony Alpha NEX 5 (NEX-5A), dubbed the ‘pocket professional’, is designed to provide the picture quality of a DSLR in half the size.

The camera’s features include a E16mm F2.8 attachable lens, 14.2 megapixels, up to 7 fps shooting, ISO 12800 sensitivity, AVCHD 1,080/60i HD movies, APS-C size HD image sensor, Sweep Panorama, Auto HDR and Live View.

Look and feel

Out of the box, the camera itself is quite sturdy, and has a good weight. It fits easily in the hand and is slightly larger than the typical digital camera yet still smaller than an SLR. The camera, which has a vintage appearance in its design, is available in black or silver. The display screen at the back has a nice swivel feature that helps in certain setups. The overall build of the camera is of a high standard.

Image quality and picture options

The NEX-5A uses a detachable lens system so other lenses can easily be purchased from Sony and attached as required. The lens that comes with the camera, the E16mm F2.8, is impressive, and pictures taken are crisp and sharp. The lack of zoom functionality out of the box, however, is confusing and disappointing. A zoom is a basic function on most cameras, especially cameras for the average photographer. Using the camera without a zoom lens means camera setup between shots takes longer and requires more physical organisation than should be the norm. 

The camera achieves high resolution with no penalty in low-light sensitivity or sensor noise. The white balance options include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Color Temperature/Filter and Custom. The camera includes an attachable flash.

The kit for the NEX-5K – a more expensive camera – does include a 55mm Sony zoom lens with image stabilisation.

Video

The 1,080i video output has good quality and captures sound strongly without the need, in this case, for an additional external microphone. There’s a wide array of photo types and settings to play with here, including a 3D panoramic setting that is due to be compatible with upcoming Sony TV sets in the not too distant future.

Software

The software on the camera is adequate. Here, the navigation system is initially confusing and non intuitive. The usual hardware picture typesetting dial that you find on most cameras is not on the NEX-5A and is instead replaced with a fiddly software version.

Tilting LCD

The 3-inch LCD screen is a nice feature which enables the photographer to tilt the screen 80 degrees upward and downward 45 degrees, and has a 920,000-dot resolution. The display also uses Sony’s Clear Photo LCD Plus and Tru Black technology from Sony’s line of digital picture frames. The LCD is easier to tilt upward than downward, requiring a little skill and force to angle it downward at a 45-degree angle.

Autofocus and metering

The Sony NEX-5A uses contrast-detect autofocus only. It has two autofocus modes: AF-S for single and AF-C for continuous focusing. There are three autofocus area modes, including Center, Multi and Flexible Area modes. The user also has a choice of full Autofocus, DMF, which enables you to adjust focus after the autofocus operation, and Manual Focus. Focus is fast and fairly accurate. 

Overall

A professional photographer may find many more advantages to using a camera like this, getting lost in the more detailed functionality which the NEX-5A definitely has on offer. However, for the casual user, the lack of zoom lens and the confusing software is better suited for a professional looking for a lighter and smaller camera.